How to exchange Eurostar vouchers for a refund
Do you have Eurostar vouchers from a cancelled journey?
Would you prefer your money back instead?
If so, the video above and the explanation below may be useful.
Sorry I couldn’t make both shorter, but the devil is in the detail, and it’s good to have the full picture.
Part 1: The law
Under European passenger law, if your train is cancelled you are entitled to a monetary refund, should you wish. This applies to any rail journey, including Eurostar journeys. Indeed, Eurostar’s own customer charter states this:
‘If a train is cancelled and as a result there will be a delay in arrival at the destination station of 60 minutes or more, customers will be entitled to either a full refund of their ticket for the affected journey if they choose not to travel or can postpone their journey to a later date.’
This is a link to rail-passenger law information on the European Union page:
Part 2: Eurostar cancels trains
In March and April 2020, Eurostar had to cancel loads of trains, including its Ski Trains, because of the pandemic.
Following the cancellations, Eurostar emailed those customers affected. But instead of offering the option of a monetary refund, Eurostar offered only vouchers.
Similarly, Eurostar’s website mentioned vouchers, but not refunds.
Unaware of their right to a refund, many customers accepted the vouchers, believing it was their only option.
Part 3: What happened next
When I started hearing that people had only been offered vouchers, I realised something was amiss. After investigating further, I discovered that if people hadn’t yet accepted vouchers, they could still ask Eurostar for a refund and would receive one. I let people know this via the Snowcarbon website and newsletter.
Part 4: Catch 22
But what about travellers who had already accepted vouchers? Here’s the crazy part: when they contacted Eurostar about this, Eurostar told them that because they had accepted a voucher already, they were no longer eligible for a refund. This is an absurdity worthy of a Monty Python sketch, or the book Catch 22.
The result was that thousands of customers were left holding vouchers, at a financially challenging time. As travel restrictions continued and the following ski season cancelled by covid, people were still stuck with vouchers whose expiry date at the time was December 2020.
Part 5: What happened next – the ORR investigation
To try to further resolve this problem, I contacted the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR).
ORR told me that the combination of complaints it had already received from Eurostar customers, combined with my enquiry as a travel journalist, spurred them into action.
Following an investigation by ORR, Eurostar eventually agreed to state on its website that customers whose trains are cancelled can get refunds. But, it still didn’t yet agree to reimburse skiers who had already accepted vouchers.
I wrote a piece for the Telegraph about this: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/comment/eurostars-stubborn-refusal-treat-travellers-fairly-going-backfire/
Part 6: Getting Eurostar to refund voucher holders
I followed up again with the ORR and Eurostar over a period of months.
The good news is that ORR has got Eurostar to agree to refund those customers who were given vouchers for cancelled journeys, if requested.
“We welcome Eurostar’s commitment to extend the validity of active eVouchers up to 30 December 2021 to increase the opportunity for passengers to book future travel and also to continue to process refunds for those eligible who contact the company, including those who previously took eVouchers but were entitled to a cash refund.”
My email to Eurostar Press Office:
“Please can Eurostar confirm that the following statement is correct: ‘Following an investigation by ORR, Eurostar has confirmed that customers who previously accepted vouchers for a cancelled Eurostar journey may contact Eurostar to have their voucher converted to a cash refund, should they so wish, regardless of the date the journey was originally made.’”
Eurostar Press Office response:
"Yes, the above statement is correct.”
Further comment from Eurostar Press Office:
“We have reviewed our communications to ensure that they are clearer for customers. If travellers are booked on a train that is cancelled, they will receive an email with a direct link to our refunds page. This will make it simpler for customers to obtain a refund when a train service is cancelled.
“This specific situation is regarding vouchers that have been issued due to Covid and is separate to our normal compensation policy. In this instance, we will offer a refund for any vouchers that have been issued for a booking which included a cancelled train, regardless of the date of travel or the date that the voucher was issued.
“E-vouchers must be used by 30 December 2021, but considering the booking window can be used for travel in the first half of 2022.”
Part 7: If you choose to keep your vouchers, be aware that
• If you are going to book a journey combining a Eurostar with an onward train such as a TGV, trying to use your Eurostar voucher may mean that you have to split the booking into two parts (Eurostar separately, onward journey separately). This might reduce your right to a refund in the case of one of the trains cancelling.
• Trying to use vouchers might slow down or limit your booking options. It might be problematic to redeem a voucher online, or with a rail ticket or booking agent.
• If the value of your vouchers is greater than the journey you are using them for, you don’t get the difference reimbursed.
• If the new journey that you book with the vouchers is cancelled, and you paid for it with a voucher, your right to a refund won’t be as strong as if you paid with money.
• Eurostar vouchers will not be accepted on the Travelski Express (the new the Eurostar Ski Train for this season).
Part 8: How to get your refund if you want to
1. Email Eurostar Traveller Care. The email address is email@example.com
Eurostar also has an online contact form that it says customers can use:
2. Give them your booking reference/s, voucher number/s, and contact details and explain that you would like to receive a refund. Here is a sample email structure:
Dear Eurostar Customer Care,
I would like to request a cash refund for my cancelled journey.
When my journey was cancelled originally, I was only offered e-vouchers by Eurostar, and not a refund.
However, I understand that as part of my passenger rights, I can request a refund instead.
My booking reference/s were:
My voucher number/s are:
My contact details are:
I look forward to hearing from you,
I hope this is useful to you — or someone you know. Please bear in mind that:
1. I’ve no idea how long it will take Eurostar to respond.
2. I’ve no guarantee that you will get a refund, but if Eurostar has now stated publicly via their press office that you can get one, that’s a strong indication that you will.
Please do keep in touch - I’d love to hear about how things go,